Microsoft Ignite 2020: Microsoft Teams Q&A w/Jeff Teper

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As a short reprieve from the action-packed agenda from this year’s Microsoft Ignite conference, we had the pleasure of hearing some more personal reflections from Jeff Teper, Microsoft’s Head of Teams.

Below is a quick recap of some of the key points that Jeff covered as he reflected on his work with Teams over the past few months while they continued to deliver one of the most essential products for business collaboration in 2020.

How has it been for you and the team navigating this summer?

We were prepared for the capacity of our cloud services to scale up, but nothing like what we saw. It was really a privilege to be able to help schools, teachers, hospitals, and organizations of all sizes around the world during this crisis, especially with Teams. We designed the services of Microsoft 365 to be elastic, and so we did a lot of work with Azure to get the capacity to a place where it could support billions of meeting minutes a day. That was an interesting technical challenge.

We then spent a lot of time educating our customers and helping them to adapt to working remotely. As Satya reinforced, this has been an incredible time for us to learn as a company about how we can improve our products and guidance for our customers. As a team, we worked super hard. I have been at Microsoft 28 years and this is the most intense and most rewarding six months of my career for sure.

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In that time has there been anything that’s really surprised you or stood out?

The pace at which organizations of all sizes have moved to the cloud. These are very thoughtful, carefully planned migrations and transitions for identity, meetings, documents, etcetera. We had organizations come to us and say, “We need to go. We need to go now and be up in a weekend.”

So, we challenged ourselves–and frankly our customers–and we were able to do in days what had taken months, and in fact in some cases years. So, the pace at which we were able to do things was just phenomenal. I think this will be a lasting lesson for all of us about the agility you get from the cloud.

As you look to the future of scale communication, where do you see that evolving?

This is something we’ve talked about in some of our sessions already, that communication is going to take multiple forms; from very short messages to long, thoughtful documents to two-way discussions, live real-time meetings will all be a part of it.

Again, some of those will be 1-on-1 and some of them a team meeting where you try to rally around a shared plan. Some of them will be big produced events like this one. Another example of the kinds of things we’re involved in right now is the National Basketball Association’s playoffs in the United States. The virtual fans are powered by Teams.

It is our goal with Teams to say there’s not one style of communication that’s appropriate for all work. We will bring them together simply in a single place. We want to make chat, calls, and meetings very flexible.

microsoft teams

One of my favorite things we announced today is “Together Mode” that we have had out for a couple of months. We announced new scenes like a coffee bar scene. You can signal to your coworkers that this isn’t the meeting where we do the serious presentation and get it reviewed. Let’s unwind a little bit, build social capital, brainstorm, and get to know each other like we did when we were in the office or when we’d go out to dinner or to a coffee bar.

A lot of what we are trying to do is not just provide this flexible tool for communications, but also recognize that we’re all human beings and we want to relate to each other better.

How you think about blending the needs of those in a meeting room vs. remote workers joining via a Microsoft Teams call? 

That is a really key area. When we were mostly in meetings, in person with some people dialing in if you will, we knew how to deal with that. In retrospect, we didn’t deal with it as well as we should have when including our remote participants. Now that we’re all remote, we know how to deal with that.

We are going to be going back to a hybrid model. People will be in the office, people will be calling in remote. Obviously, teams are global teams, so you will always have distributed attendees in meetings. That has helped us improve the experience in Microsoft Teams, including our Teams meeting room experience. You can now have a better layout of the in-person and remote attendees.

Whether the remote attendees are by themselves, calling in on their home PC, or in a remote office in a conference room. You will see a much more thoughtful layout that we have come up over the last few months for the Teams meeting room experience. There are going to be people in conference rooms in different locations and there will be individuals calling in 1-on-1, and how we lay those out matters. We will use A.I. for the camera and speaker recognition to help with transcription and identification to make that experience more engaging and inclusive as well.

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You’re responsible not just for Teams, but also Sharepoint and OneDrive. How do you think about them sitting alongside each other in Microsoft 365? Do they overlap? 

Some things have changed about Ignite in that we are not attending in person, but one thing is the same: I always get asked, “Is SharePoint an app or a platform?”

I always answer it the same way, which is that it is both. SharePoint is going to power a set of experiences across Microsoft. Every Microsoft Team is backed by SharePoint. You can get your files, your lists, and your websites from SharePoint inside Teams. We also have hero experiences, OneDrive to browse your files, the Microsoft list app to work with lists and, of course, there’s SharePoint for building great intranets.

We announced today that Microsoft Teams meeting recordings and Microsoft Stream are powered by SharePoint going forward. We are adding video capabilities to the SharePoint platform. So, the short version is you will of course be able to build the gorgeous intranet sites with SharePoint as an app. But SharePoint is a platform for all of these other apps: OneDrive, Lists, Teams, custom PowerApps, and so on.

What we are trying to do is build the most flexible content management system in the industry and power these tailored experiences and the place where they come together inside Microsoft teams.

The guitars–you’re famous for them. Walk us through them.

When my kids were small, I needed a hobby that did not take time away from the family and might be entertaining. So, I took up guitar lessons many years ago now. I am a big Beatles fan so behind me I have the (not the original, but the same model) 12 string Rickenbacker that George Harrison played, and the Casino John Lennon played on the rooftop of Abbey Road.

I say to everybody, if you want to do great at work, make sure you are doing great at life. Take care of your family, have hobbies. It has been great for me to have music as a creative outlet.

microsoft teams

We see a lot about Microsoft Teams helping our first responders. Are there any stories that particularly resonate with you where Teams helped the front line?

Every day we get to work with organizations around the world. In the first three months post-COVID, our Teams engineering team had 912 customers that they worked with. Our SalesForce support organization partners work with tens of thousands of organizations and we had a chance to work with many of them.

I was talking to the CIO of one of them this morning. I didn’t ask his permission to share, but his reaction was, as a fortune 100 company, that they were stunned how fast they were able to move. They were able to get everybody working remotely, moved their meeting experience to the cloud, and were able to keep their business going.

We get a chance to talk to hospitals where we learn about the thousands of doctor-patient consultations done on Microsoft Teams and that is just humbling. In our Teams scheme, we have multiple channels, and one is the customer engagement channel. Any time somebody in the Team has a discussion with a customer we ask them to post it. It is just one of the most heartwarming things. Every couple of hours we look and see how we work with the school systems, how we work with the hospitals–places like Norwell Health on the east coast of the United States is a huge hospital system.

Just these wonderful stories where there’s feedback on places we have could be better. It is just humbling and inspiring that we get a chance to do what we do here.

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It was a great opportunity to hear reflections over the past few months from Jeff and an exciting prospect for looking towards the future of what is to come for Microsoft Teams. Stay tuned or more coverage of Microsoft Ignite 2020.


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